“How many Non-League or amateur players have someone they trust looking out for them during their football career who is ready and able to act on their behalf when needed?” asks Francis Duku, Chairman of the ASPSU and stalwart of the semi-professional game.
“Professional players have the PFA if they require support, but who can credibly claim to support those in the lower leagues?”
Duku makes an interesting point. “My 16 years in football have been a privilege and afforded me some great highlights but, like most players, I’ve always been vulnerable to the outcome if things out of my hands went wrong at a club and that is something that has always worried me.”
The ASPSU, (the Amateur and Semi-Professional Sportspersons’ Union), a ‘trade organisation’ dedicated to supporting the lower league footballer is Duku’s response to this issue.
Formed with two ex-teammates – Joe Vines and Che Stadhart – and offering more than 50 years’ playing time between them, Duku highlights that the ASPSU’s real strength comes from the relevant experience of the Union’s staff.
“All ASPSU personnel are still playing in some capacity,” Duku explains, “which makes us perfectly positioned to understand player issues. The capacity to relate directly to our members is critical in the service we offer.”
Duku stresses: “As a trade union, our first priority and primary service is ensuring players are treated fairly by their clubs at all times, but we also understand the need for player accountability. Players have to recognise it’s a two-way street and they also have a responsibility to their club.
“At the ASPSU we believe cooperation, not confrontation, will address many of the key issues between player and management, and want to work with clubs for the benefit of all.”
The second significant element of ASPSU membership is its exclusive player insurance policy, designed specifically to meet the needs of Non-League players.
This insurance package is second to none, covering such costs as private scans, x-rays, overnight hospitalisation and immediate private physiotherapy – but also lump sum payments for events like broken bones, damaged ligaments or career-ending injury. It is also one of the few available policies which pays a cash benefit for ‘loss of time’ while out injured and unable to play, regardless of whether your club continues to pay your wages or not. This represents a huge benefit to all players as devastating injury can be one misplaced tackle away.
“Non-League players need a safety net more than ever,” says Duku. “Fewer clubs are able to pay injured players these days even if you get injured playing for them. Self-employed players must also consider if injury will prevent them going to work and leave them without any form of income. There are many real stories of players who have had to deal with this happening to them. What if it happened to you?”
Despite these very real and increasingly frequent examples, it seems there is still some resistance to lower league players putting in place the necessary protection.
“I am amazed at the number of lads I talk to who believe this type of cover is not for them…that they’ll manage somehow or, worse, think it won’t happen to them!” exclaims Duku.
“Nobody is immune. You would be crazy not to consider, how you would cope if the worst happened to you? There are also those players who have agreed the need for the Union and the value of its benefits, but believe they can come back to it ‘some time later’ or just ‘need to get round to it’. Injury and change can happen at any time not just when you are able to deal with it.
“Imagine delaying your decision to join but then suffering from something we could have helped with! Players have to take action now to ensure they always have a support network ready to act on their behalf. Doing nothing could have serious repercussions on your football career and your life.”
As the ASPSU’s membership grows, the benefits on offer will extend into other personal areas. It is already able to offer its members a comprehensive range of services which add real value to a player’s ‘career’ and life so giving members the best chance to enjoy the benefits of their ‘other career’.
Currently the Union has negotiated preferred rates for its members on sporting goods and services; professional services such as accountancy, tax returns and mortgages; buying and leasing cars; worldwide holidays; hotel accommodation; investing and finance services; general insurance; legal services; and access to FA registered agents, among its many benefits. All members also have access to a dedicated networking facility specifically for those in the Non-League world.
“We are harnessing the group’s size and buying power to offer quality benefits to our members,” adds Duku. “Quite simply, the more players we have on board, the better the deals we can deliver!”
By now you should be asking what is the cost? We want to make membership as affordable as possible for all players, so offer tiered packages to suit most budgets. All the benefits of ASPSU membership are available for as little as 33p a day for youth players and 42p per day for senior players. The subscription fee is also renewable monthly…so there are no long term tie-ins either!
This represents extraordinary value for money – being on average 50 per cent cheaper than the cost of similar insurance only deals, which do not carry any of the additional Union benefits. Many players currently insured with another company well known in Non-League circles, could save over £300 per year and get more coverage by joining the ASPSU.
“So, it’s over to you,” says Duku. “Semi-pro and amateur players have never before had the fantastic opportunities available through the ASPSU.
Do not pass up this chance.
“The ASPSU is serious about football and its members. If you are serious about your football and welfare and want to access the ASPSU’s excellent membership benefits, then contact us on 0208 166 5785 or visit us at www.ourgamefootball.com. Membership shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a necessity.”